Day 2 of Cooking Adventures

The gathering mentioned in my previous 2 posts was quite a success (A Day of Cooking Adventures, Part 1 & Part 2). In addition to the olives, roasted peppers, and shrimp, I also made oven-roasted garlic and a soup with vegetables, garlic, beer, and cheese.

The roasted garlic was very straightforward – each head gets a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of water, then they are covered with foil to roast in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes. Uncover and roast for an additional 15 minutes or “until golden.” Of course, GT8 did not realize they were supposed to be covered with foil until they’d been roasting a while, and after the 1 hr 15 min they came out, beautiful and golden. They were a huge hit, particularly spread on Italian bread. I would be enjoying the leftovers, except that my stomach demanded a respite from consuming vast quantities of garlic.

The soup was a more complicated recipe that I followed as well as I could while socializing with guests. It called for items to be added in stages, with about 10 minutes of cooking time in between. I was referring to the cookbook between steps because I had not yet internalized the recipe. So, the whole thing probably cooked a lot longer than it was supposed to. This relaxed approach to the timing worked well, though. I was also able to reverse the order of adding the cheese and the ingredients due to come after it, so a friend who does not eat cheese could enjoy some of the soup. The end result was less creamy and cheesy than I had expected, but had a very nice flavor. Those who tried it liked it, so I was pleased.

The biggest success of the evening was certainly the shrimp. They disappeared rather early in the night. The recipe created way too much of their dipping sauce, even though it was also fairly popular. That portion of the recipe can be quartered (at least!) and still produce plenty of sauce for the shrimp. I’ll probably double the shrimp portion of the recipe if I make it again for a gathering of this size. And, I’ll leave out the thumb nail.

The olives were tasty but the vinegar taste is extremely strong, to the point of overpowering the other flavors. I think I’m the only one who really ate them. If I follow their recipe again, I will use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, instead of the 1:1 ratio recommended by the recipe. The peppers were slightly more popular. I was exceedingly pleased with their flavor, especially when spread on the Italian bread with a clove or two of roasted garlic. They also make fantastic leftovers.

The Aftermath:

The 2011 holidays hit my waistline very hard. Between the tasty food I cooked and treats that others brought, I spent the entire day eating. Add to that the consequences of several other gatherings throughout the month of December, and it is no surprise that I gained 9 pounds!

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A Day of Cooking Adventures Part 2

Our culinary adventure (see Pt. 1) began with the decision to turn Spicy Mediterranean Olives with Garlic & Herbs (p. 42 of Garlic, Garlic, Garlic) into non-spicy olives by eliminating the chile peppers. We also had to half the recipe because we had only acquired 2 cups of olives. I measured out the oil, vinegar, ground black pepper, and fennel seed, then attacked a lemon and an orange for their zest. I also minced the zests even though that’s not part of the recipe. Oops! I also cut each garlic clove more than once, so there are several slices in the marinade. The ingredients (except for the olive oil) all went in a pot to boil and then simmer for a few minutes.

sliced garlic cloves, fennel seed, orange and lemon zests, and vinegar in a reflective potThe color – and the smell! – were amazing.

Once that mixture was ready, I added the olive oil, followed soon-after by the olives themselves. I had to double the amount of vinegar and oil in order to make sure the olives were covered by the marinade. I then learned that I did not have the rosemary the recipe calls for, so I sprinkled on a blend of Italian herbs: oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and sage. This concoction was then well stirred and placed in a sealed container to marinade for 24 hours. We’ve been taking turns stirring it periodically.

Next up were the Marinated Roasted Red (Orange, and Yellow) Peppers with Garlic and Anchovies (p. 62). Garlicturino86 (henceforth to be referred to as GT8) had a blast smashing and mincing 5 garlic cloves.

GT8 smashes a clove of garlic under his knife while soon-to-be victims watchGT8 smashes a clove of garlic under his knife while soon-to-be victims watch on

I measured the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. GT8 passed me bell peppers and I placed the in the oven to roast. I doubt the contents of the oven have ever been so colorful!

They don’t know what they’re in for …

While the peppers roasted, and later cooled, we set to work on the third and final recipe for the evening: Beer-Braised Shrimp with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce (p. 56). Sadly, this recipe was not without injury. GT8’s eyes were too irritated by the process of mincing the shallot, so I took over. Somehow I managed to catch my thumb nail with the knife, removing part of it! (Thank goodness it was just a shallow cut, and the rest of the thumb remained intact.) I now have a raw, red spot where I used to have a nail; it is extremely sensitive to the touch. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more painful cut, and the worst part is that completely random movements that are normally painless hurt horribly.

This minor setback did not deter our cooking insanity, however. The beer, garlic, shrimp, and other ingredients all went into the pot. GT8 informed me that regular salt is stronger than the Kosher salt the recipe calls for just in time for me to use only 3/4 the amount the recipe calls for. We brought our concoction to a boil and let it simmer until the shrimp turned pink. When I removed the cover I was greeted with the fantastic smell of beer and garlic, oh, it was amazing!

A pot with seasoned beer and shrimp, cooked and bubblingIt smells even better than it looks!

The recipe also calls for a creamy dipping sauce of yogurt and sour cream mixed with 2 different types of mustard, garlic (of course!), Worcestershire sauce, and the whole zest of a lemon (minced – I let GT8 do that). Mixing that mess together was rather entertaining, but the results were well worth it: nice and tasty, with quite the kick! The dipping sauce and shrimp in their beer mixture went into the refrigerator to chill overnight. I felt very proud as I cleaned the edges of the bowl for the dipping sauce and contemplated serving the dish the next day.

Finally, we had the gooey and slimy task of removing the skins from the roasted peppers. It was gross and fun at the same time. As I removed the skins, GT8 cut the peppers, removed their innards, and laid them on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. He sprinkled smashed and minced garlic over them, followed by half the oil and all of the balsamic vinegar. We baked them for 10 minutes, then added julienned basil. After a quick photo shoot, they went into a bowl with the remaining oil to marinade overnight. Two of the slices most certainly were not stolen, and they weren’t absolutely delicious!

Roasted Peppers fresh out of the ovenFinally complete, the roasted peppers are as delicious as they are beautiful.

Now it is the next day. Guests should begin arriving soon. And there’s more cooking to do! This should be quite entertaining …

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